Fram­ing a Dream

Prestige Hong Kong - - AGENDA -

New York gal­lerist DAVID ZWIRNER talks about his stun­ning new space in Hong Kong – and why he couldn’t have opened it any­where else

WHEN WE AN­NOUNCED our plans to open a gallery in Hong Kong two years ago, an idea that had been de­vel­op­ing over many years fi­nally be­gan to take con­crete shape. In 2011, dur­ing the runup to the open­ing of our May­fair gallery in Lon­don, we par­tic­i­pated in our first art fair in Hong Kong, and it was ob­vi­ous that the city was quickly be­com­ing a ma­jor cen­tre for con­tem­po­rary art, at­tract­ing new au­di­ences and new col­lec­tors. Wit­ness­ing Hong Kong’s con­tin­ued rise to promi­nence and sig­nif­i­cance in the art world has been in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing.

When we were pre­sented with the pos­si­bil­ity of oc­cu­py­ing both the fifth and sixth floors of the stun­ning H Queen’s build­ing, it was the per­fect time and the per­fect lo­ca­tion to make the gallery’s pres­ence in Asia more per­ma­nent. We were hon­oured to be able to work with Wil­liam

Lim of CL3 Ar­chi­tects on the pro­ject, but it was es­sen­tial that this new 10,000-square-foot space be con­sis­tent with our New York and Lon­don gal­leries, so we col­lab­o­rated with de­signer and ar­chi­tect – and my good friend of many, many years – Annabelle Sell­dorf on the in­terior ar­chi­tec­ture. She cre­ated an ab­so­lutely stun­ning gallery across two floors, which fea­tures four adapt­able, col­umn-free ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces that can be ap­pro­pri­ated to suit a wide range of art works. This adapt­abil­ity will al­low us to stage a va­ri­ety of ex­hi­bi­tions and to fea­ture works from across the gallery’s en­tire pro­gramme.

As fate would have it, the open­ing of our gallery at H Queen’s co­in­cided with the 25th an­niver­sary of my first space. When I opened my first gallery in 1993 on Greene Street in SoHo, the art world was a very dif­fer­ent place – it was a frac­tion of the size it is now, and the art mar­ket was also in the depths of a se­vere re­ces­sion. This didn’t dis­suade me, and nei­ther did the fact that my first show, with the artist Franz West, which I thought was beau­ti­ful, yielded not a sin­gle sale.

That first year was in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing, and, af­ter it was over, I had an im­por­tant re­al­i­sa­tion: if I wanted to suc­ceed, then the artists had to be front and cen­tre – they were the rai­son d’être of the gallery, and our DNA.

So for the last 25 years, ev­ery­thing that we have done and con­tinue to do is driven by our com­mit­ment to the artists and the es­tates who have en­trusted us with their ca­reers and lega­cies. As such, our re­spon­si­bil­ity to them is to present the work in the very best spa­ces, with the very best light­ing, and un­der the very best con­di­tions. This is the case whether it is in my gallery in Chelsea in New York, or in Lon­don, or, now, in Hong Kong.

In com­mem­o­rat­ing this im­por­tant mile­stone, we de­cided to stage our largest ex­hi­bi­tion to date: the 25th-an­niver­sary ex­hi­bi­tion, which we opened in early Jan­uary, cov­ers 30,000 square feet and spans all five of our spa­ces in Chelsea, and fea­tures art works from the gallery’s many artists and es­tates. We re­alised that we would also be open­ing the gallery in Hong Kong in Jan­uary, with an ex­hi­bi­tion of stun­ning new paint­ings by Bel­gian artist Michaël Bor­re­mans.

Some­where along the way, I had the crazy idea to in­vite all of the artists and es­tates we have the priv­i­lege of work­ing with to travel to Hong Kong, so that we could cel­e­brate this mile­stone to­gether. In the end, more than 30 artists and es­tate rep­re­sen­ta­tives made the jour­ney to Hong Kong.

We spent an in­cred­i­ble week to­gether ex­plor­ing the city, meet­ing col­lec­tors, cu­ra­tors, and visi­tors from around the re­gion and, in­deed, from all over the world, who came to the open­ing of the gallery and Michaël’s in­au­gu­ral ex­hi­bi­tion

There were many won­der­ful din­ners, nu­mer­ous toasts to our artists, and a lot of danc­ing. It was so mean­ing­ful for me to see all of the artists and col­leagues from the gallery to­gether at this moment in time, where we looked back not only on the past 25 years, as we had done in New York a few weeks ear­lier, but now also in Hong Kong, where we were look­ing to­wards the fu­ture.

There’s some­thing about the city that res­onates deeply with me. There’s an en­ergy that drives Hong Kong that I also feel drives New York; al­though they are half­way across the world, this en­ergy also con­nects the two. There’s a charge in the at­mos­phere that I felt in

New York when I ar­rived all those years ago. The en­ergy that drives these two ex­tra­or­di­nary cities to con­stantly rein­vent and recre­ate them­selves is twinned with an op­ti­mism and en­thu­si­asm to keep mov­ing, grow­ing, im­prov­ing, to em­brace new ideas, new peo­ple, new build­ings and new cul­tures. In short, there was no bet­ter place in the world other than Hong Kong for us to cel­e­brate both the past 25 years and the fu­ture of the gallery.

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